SINGAPORE: In many Asian countries smartphone adoption rates exceed those for computers and a significant proportion of the population is only going online via mobile devices a new study has shown.

Internet giant Google worked with researcher TNS to interview 150,000 people across 56 countries for its report, The Consumer Barometer, and found the uptake of smartphones was greater than desktops in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Korea.

"The surprising element to me is how fast things have moved in terms of penetration," said Julian Persaud, managing director, Google Southeast Asia, in remarks reported by Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Thus, for example, smartphone adoption in Vietnam had risen from 20% to 36% in the space of a year, and in Thailand it was up from 31% to 40% while it had doubled to 28% in Indonesia.

Singapore (85%) and Korea (80%) are now among the most smartphone-savvy nations in the world, while Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong have reached 50% adoption rates.

And compared to western consumers, Asians are far more likely to report that a mobile device is the only connected device they own. This was true for over one third of Malaysian respondents and one quarter of Vietnamese.

Lower figures were evident in Singapore (16%), South Korea (14%) and Hong Kong (14%), but these were still comfortably ahead of, say, Germany (7%) or the UK (6%).

"Every Asian business needs to offer a great experience on mobile," stated Persaud. "It's no longer a viable option to ignore the high percentage of consumers who are online on their smartphones."

But much work remains to be done. Even in Singapore, supposedly one of the most advanced smartphone markets, he reported that 88% of consumers encountered some kind of problem when using mobile sites.

Widespread smartphone ownership is changing consumer behaviour, with many now habitually dual-screening. Some 30% to 40% of internet users in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam now go online while watching TV, with three quarters doing so via smartphone. Eight in ten are looking for things unrelated to what is on the television.

Google said that search was ubiquitous across devices, with the proportion of people looking for such things as car insurance, movie tickets, flights and hotels, far ahead of the US in some markets.

Data sourced from Marketing Interactive, Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff